Skoda has morphed into a purveyor of cars which pleasantly surprise us with their all-round quality. Recently, CAR has tested the facelifted Yeti Outdoor, top-selling new Octavia, and the 2.0 TDI version of the model you see here, the aptly named Superb.
Now we’re behind the wheel of the Superb for those who like the facelifted car’s shaper looks and 5-series space for 3-series money template, but have a phobia of fuel stations and accumulating Nectar points. This is the Skoda Superb Greenline, ‘Greenline’ being not a fictitious bus operator from the Grand Theft Auto franchise, but rather Skoda’s umbrella term for the most fuel-efficient and least tax-hungry Skodas on the market.
Well, that’s what the spreadsheet says, anyway. Time to hit the road and see if Skoda’s rich run of recent form can continue in a machine designed to soothe your commute, rather than drench it in adrenaline.
Right, let’s have the engine spec of the Skoda Superb Greenline
Under the bonnet of this sizeable 4.8m-long barge, there’s a 1598cc four-cylinder turbodiesel, with 103bhp. Yes – this 5-seres sized exec saloon’s gee-gee output is barely into triple figures, and the torque isn’t monstrous too, at 184lb ft.
This is indeed the same engine that powered our Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI test car, and the Audi A1 Sportback we drove earlier in 2014. Talk about a jack of all trades…
So it’s just a tiny engine in a massive car?
No – Greenline buys you more than just extra badging and a load of a fresh air in your engine bay. Unlike the Audi A1 and Skoda Octavia we tried with this engine, there’s no five-speed manual here; instead there’s a six-speed manual, with extra-long ratios that keep the engine barely awake at anything less than autobahn speeds.
Meanwhile, 16in wheels replace the standard car’s 17s, and they’re shod with low-friction eco-rubber to eke out extra yardage when freewheeling. There’s a slightly lower ride height too – alas not to allow Superb Greenline drivers to carry even more momentum through corners and avoid pinning the throttle. It’s an aerodynamic measure, helping towards a 109g/km CO2 output – a whole tax band better than the cleanest BMW 5-series (that being new 518d we tried in 2013).
All the usual eco-special recipe ingredients then?
Yes – and all the usual results, too. Such a tiny engine and long gearing make being caught in the turbo lag zone a clear and present danger, despite the Superb’s surprisingly lithe 1444kg kerbweight (a 518d weighs 1690kg, though it has 80lb ft extra to haul it along).
We wouldn’t go so far as to say the Superb’s engine is out of its depth, though. The mid-range pull is adequate for the motorway schlepping this fleet-friendly Superb will spend much of its life doing, and even when under load, the valvetrain doesn’t try and burst out of the top of the bonnet like some ghastly automotive tribute to that scene in Alien. On the move, it’s wind and road roar that make their unwanted presence heard more than the oil-burner up front.
From low revs, you’ll be at least one gear lower than you would in the stronger 2.0 TDI Superb. Like all parsimony-minded diesels, it’s something you learn to work around, and if this was your only car (and what an excellent family car the Superb is too) you’d scarcely notice the meagre pull on offer.
What about the ride and handling?
Having recently got acquainted with the engaging new Skoda Octavia (which shares much of its chassis structure with the fine new VW Golf, Seat Leon and Audi A3), the Superb doesn’t entertain like an upsized version of its sharp-suited brother. There’s more pitch and lean in direction changes and severe braking, and a less immediate response from the half-a-size-too-big steering wheel. The ride is still too choppy on poorly surfaced roads to pull off the exec saloon façade to a tee, but there’s less of a ‘thunk’ to brace for than the 18in rims-shod Superb CAR reviewed recently.
Skoda’s Superb errs on the side of unruffled, largely uninvolving progress, and if that sounds like your kind of driving, this immaculately built, understated machine makes a lot of sense in this most fuel-efficient of guises.
That said, we’d go for the massive Estate overall. It does away with this hatchback’s awkward-looking dual-tailgate, replacing it with a 1865-litre loadbay in return for a £1280 penalty. Now there’s something proud to call itself a jack of all trades.